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It goes without saying that Rolls Royce, founded of course in 1906, is one of the most famous names in motoring history. From the very early years the firm’s name was synonymous with quality and exclusivity. There was no compromise, they produced “the best car in the world”.

In the early years, as with most manufacturers, the company supplied the chassis, engine, and running gear. The customer would order bespoke coachwork of their choice designed and built by a specialist. You could decide to have a saloon, a limousine, or perhaps a more exotic 3 position drop head coupe. Your bespoke coachwork could be supplied in any colour, with an interior built specifically to your requirements. It’s undoubtably the case that many clients ordered some very exotic cars over the years, but few, if any, can match this extraordinary Phantom 1.

The company had produced their first model, the Silver Ghost, from 1906 until 1925. It had been a highly successful design capable of carrying both elaborate limousine coachwork and lighter sporting models, some of which enjoyed great success on international rallies and trials. The Phantom 1, introduced as the “New Phantom” shared the same basic chassis design as the later Ghosts, but had a larger engine with overhead valves. It had better brakes, steering, and was altogether a more modern machine.

76TC was ordered in 1925 by Clarence Gasque, an American living in London, and a director of Woolworths. It was to be a surprise gift for his wife Maud herself a Woolworth’s heiress. Gasque commissioned the Wolverhampton based coachbuilder Charles Clark & Son Ltd to create this beautiful “Brougham De Ville” coachwork. In his brief he left the design and cost to the coachbuilder’s discretion but stipulated the interior should have a French theme and the Rococo interior that was produced is breathtaking. At the time the normal cost of a body would have been about £800. This cost £6000! Probably the most expensive Rolls Royce ever produced, the cost being equivalent to over £3,000,000 at todays values. It became to be known as the “Phantom of Love”.The seats are covered in French Aubusson tapestry, the interior door panels are in the finest satinwood marquetry, the metalwork fittings are in gilt, and there is hidden interior lighting plus a ceiling painted with cherubs. The ormolu fittings are of the highest quality made especially by Elkingtons. There are genuine 18th century enamel patch boxes. The list is endless.

Gasque died only 18 months after taking delivery of the car. Stanley Sears, a famous collector purchased the car from the estate in the early 1950’s. He built the one of the world’s finest collections and on his death Christie’s sold his cars at auction. The P1 was not at the sale, but had been sold privately by Sears to a US collector for a “sum he could not refuse”! Subsequently the car went to Japan and has returned now to London.

Apart from the exotic design its also worth noting the car has been little used in its life and has covered very few miles since new.

Photography: Tim Scott www.fluidimages.co.uk

Charles Prince Classic Cars
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